The decision to terminate an employee is never an easy one. If you’ve been given the unenviable task of delivering the bad news, remember that it will certainly be more difficult and uncomfortable for the employee concerned.
Here are some practical tips to try to alleviate the stress and possible liabilities that come with a termination meeting.
Location and timing
Always conduct a termination meeting in a place that is private and away from other employees. It’s important that you are not interrupted, and that the member of staff concerned is away from curious onlookers.
If possible, arrange the termination meeting for the end of the working day. This will enable the employee to leave the building and go home, rather than having to face his or her colleagues for the remainder of the working day. This is particularly important if the termination is to take immediate effect.
The termination meeting should be kept brief and to the point. Five to ten minutes maximum should suffice.
Counselling and support
Do consider the employee’s state of mind and how they are likely to take the news. Make sure they have a support system in place at home, particularly if you decide to have the meeting on a Friday.
In the case of a difficult termination or if an employee is especially sensitive, it may be prudent to offer outplacement counselling, and to have a counsellor available just in case.
If the employee to be terminated is known to become easily upset and possibly capable of violence, you might want to think about having a security representative present at the meeting. In such circumstances, make sure you have a suitable action plan in place prior to the meeting.
Who should attend?
In addition to yourself and the employee concerned, the termination meeting should be attended by two members of either the HR department or other management staff. One of the attendees should be delegated the task of recording contemporaneous notes.
See also: How To Fire an Employee the Easy Way
The tone of the meeting should be kept as cordial and professional as possible with the employee’s feelings always a priority. Always remain even-tempered and reasonable, even if the employee becomes annoyed or upset.
It’s important that you provide a clear reason or reasons for the employee’s termination. It’s probable that the relevant disciplinary procedures have been observed prior to this point, so any debate or argument should not be necessary and is to be avoided.
Terms of separation
The termination meeting is not the place to go through the employee’s separation package. It’s sufficient to inform the employee that this package is confidential and should not be discussed with colleagues. If he has any queries, he should contact the HR department at a subsequent date.
Make sure that the employee returns all company property to you, in particular keys and passes, computer hardware and other devices. He must also provide you with any passwords to do with company accounts or document access.
Ask the employee if he wants to remove any personal belongings he needs from his desk or workstation, but don’t insist that he packs up his office entirely straight away. The best option is either that the employee attends the office out of hours to pack up his things, or their employer packs them up and arranges for them to be delivered to the employee’s home. Give the employee the choice.
After the termination meeting
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, don’t escort the employee from the building. Just observe discreetly to make sure that he doesn’t remove any company property or documents.
Ask if the employee can get home after the termination meeting. If he is extremely upset, offer to arrange a taxi for him or telephone a friend or relative to collect him. Don’t let him drive if he is not safely able to do so.
Regardless of the circumstances of the employee’s departure, details of his termination must be kept confidential. Do not gossip with other staff, suppliers or industry contacts about the terminated employee. Obviously, colleagues and third parties will need to be informed of the employee’s departure, and this can be done sensitively. A non-committal email informing people that Mr. X is no longer with the company, thanking him for his previous service, and wishing him good luck in his new endeavours is all that’s required.
Although a termination meeting is never going to be a joyful affair, the above tips should help to make it as stress-free an event as possible.